As I had written here, I really wanted to go without an epidural this time. I had a good epidural experience with Karlyn (except for the whole recovering from a 3rd degree tear part) but I wanted to see if I could do it - experience childbirth unmedicated. I saw it as a challenge and kind of wanted to prove to myself that it was something I could do. Not for pride's sake but just because. With Karlyn, I went in as a first time mom, not knowing how labor would go, what contractions would feel like, how my body would respond, etc. My "plan" that time was to go in and see how things went and how far I could make it. You can read that story here!
I didn't come up with a specific birth plan this time either but what I did try to do was prepare more.
- I read books
- Listened to hypnobabies
- Watched some natural birth videos
- Read and wrote down birth mantras
I read Ina May Gaskin's Guide to Childbirth and sections of The Birth Partner. Ina May's book was different for sure :) but it was encouraging to read story after story of women who did it and The Birth Partner gave me some things to suggest to Ryan of ways he could help. I also read some of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding and it had a fictional short story near the beginning of how smooth post-labor could be when done without medication and I read that a couple times.
I had a "Notes" section in my phone titled "Birth Mantras!" There are a lot out there but these were some that resonated with me the most.
- Focus on RELAXING and FEELING CALM (thank you to my doula friend Stephanie for that one, just days before labor!)
- This is only one day.
- I can do this and I am doing it.
- God is in control.
- I can do anything for a minute.
- There is no injury here.
- Surrender. Relax your pelvic muscles. Let go.
- DIG DEEP.
- **Drugs reduce your own endorphins!** - I thought that was interesting.
Those were the ones I focused on at the end but I also liked and typed out these in another section.
- The power and intensity of your contractions cannot be stronger than you, because it is you.
- POWER, not pain.
- I'm closest when I think I can't go any further.
- Natural contractions always stop within your ability to cope, because it's your own unmedicated muscles that are doing the work.
- Pain relieving endorphins kick in as labor progresses.
- If you can get to a 7, you can do it.
- Recovery time will be practically nothing and you feel STRONG and POWERFUL.
Some of that might sound hokey and I certainly didn't remember or utilize all of them in the throes of labor but I do think reading over them and putting positive thoughts in my head had an impact. My sister-in-law Sam also inspired me! She gave birth to Harper (my first niece!) three weeks before me and skipped the epidural with her firstborn. I was seriously impressed! And part of me thought, if she can do it, so can I! My mother reminded me that she had done it eight times so I could do it once. :> I asked her to pray for me that I could do it as well and I know she did.
Lastly, I prayed and asked a few others to pray that we would get a good nurse. And we did! In fact, as soon as I saw my OB that morning, she said, "You have the best nurse here! She is awesome!" That made me feel good.
I was still hesitant to talk a lot about wanting to go drug-free because I felt like the more I did, the more I'd be setting myself up for disappointment? or an explanation? if it didn't go the way I'd planned. The other thing I didn't say a lot about was being induced. I was induced with Karlyn because at 38.5 weeks I started having some issues. This time around, that same issue didn't pop up but I had been on blood thinner shots for most of my pregnancy. Around 38 weeks I got kind of scared because I was reading about how most women on the shots are on them right up to delivery (I stopped mine at 37 weeks) and many who used them and had MTHFR like I do were induced due to potential issues the further the pregnancy extended. I really wanted to let my body go into labor on its own this time and my doctor had said she would evict by 41 weeks. But backing up again to me being scared - I read some things about stillbirth and started thinking, we need to get her out now, while things still look good! I had been having weekly sonos pretty much the entire 3rd trimester and at my next appointment the sono tech and my doctor did assure me that they were looking at the cord blood flow each time and as long as they got a number below a certain point, it meant there was no resistance being met. Of course, they were also watching for other things as well. My doctor then mentioned going ahead and inducing once I'd hit my due date and it was kind of a tough choice. As much as I wanted to go into labor on my own, I kept thinking what if something went wrong at the end that could have been avoided if I'd gone ahead and had her earlier. So...the date was set. December 7th, at 40 weeks and 1 day we would go in and have our baby girl. Luckily, my OB was completely on board and even suggested "inducing" exactly as we had with Karlyn. She would break my water and we'd go from there and see if I could avoid the Pitocin.
I read a couple of key passages from Ina May's book the two nights leading up to the 7th.
"When avoidance of pain becomes the major emphasis of childbirth care, the paradoxical effect is that more women have to deal with pain after their babies are born. Frequent use of epidural anesthesia drives up the rates of cesarean section and vacuum-extractor and forceps births. Epidurals cause long-term backache in approximately one woman in every five...The woman who gives birth without interventions, on the other hand, is more apt to be through with pain when her baby is born. Often, she is euphoric, buoyed on the hormones released after the birth of the baby...Pain, if present seconds earlier, is often erased or pushed into the background. Not only that, the woman has developed powerful relaxation techniques, practiced during the most intense and memorable experience of her life. She has learned how breathing slowly and deeply can change her bodily sensations, as well as the tenor of her thoughts. She has probably developed a new respect and appreciation for her body. She has experienced the extraordinary mixture of vulnerability, power, and contact with the female principle that characterizes labor and birth."
Stay tuned for Part 2!